Jack is a senior in Houston, Texas. He attends a public magnet high school.
You've sent off all your applications. Have you heard anything yet?
Yes! So far, I’ve been admitted to Trinity University, UTSA (Honors College!), and an alternate admission program to UT Austin called PACE (Pathway to Admissions through Co-Enrollment. Basically, I would take classes at the Austin Community College and UT Austin during my freshman year and then be granted full admission to UT Austin by sophomore year.)
You called five of the schools you've applied to "safety schools": Oxy, Trinity, U of H, UT Austin, and UT San Antonio. If, hypothetically, you were to be accepted to only those schools, which do you prefer? Why? Even if you were to end up at your least-preferable, do you feel comfortable with that?
All else equal (financial aid and such), I would definitely prefer going to Occidental. Leaving my home state is really important to me, and not only that, but Occidental is one of the schools that checked off a lot of my boxes, plus more. A diverse liberal arts institution in the heart of a major urban center encapsulates a lot of what I want out of a college experience. If I end up being accepted to both Pomona College (extremely selective, especially compared to Oxy’s 45% acceptance rate) and Occidental College, I’m gonna have a lot of trouble deciding between the two.
If I were to end up at UH, my least-preferred safety school, I’d be comfortable, but also a little disappointed. I feel like I’d be missing out on a lot of growth and unique experiences that come with moving away from home and being a part of an institution where people come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Still, I know there are some advantages with staying in a place where I’m already comfortable, and choosing to go to UH might renew a sense of drive and competitiveness as I’d want to be anything but stagnant if I were to stay in Houston.
What, to you, would be the best scenario? Would you rather get just one acceptance from a "dream" school like Yale and not have to make any more decisions? Or given your long list, do you still want to have options to weigh down the line? If you could choose the best outcome now, what would it be?
One of the reasons why I applied to so many colleges is because I can’t make up my mind. I’d always be adding and dropping colleges depending on the day, my mood, and my current anxieties about the future. Even now, I’m still tempted to apply to a few more schools because I’m worried about not having options. I know it would make more sense for me to prefer getting that one dream acceptance so I could move on, but I think I’d actually be more comfortable with having more options to choose between; I feel like I’d need the act of making a decision to give me a more satisfying sense of closure in terms of finally ending the college application process, as opposed to settling for something while dwelling on all the coulda beens.
Are you doing any college-related things while you wait to get responses from everyone? You mentioned a few more possible interviews or visits--how did those go?
I did my Tufts interview last Sunday at a coffee shop in the Heights and I had a good time with my interviewer. We had a really friendly and casual conversation that lasted for about an hour. I was a lot less nervous than I was with my first couple interviews just because I knew what to expect now. Other than that interview, I’ve been churning out scholarships, and I’m still waiting on a Brown interview to be set up.
Have you done any reflecting on the application process yet? How do you think you did? Is there anything that, in hindsight, you’d do differently? Any advice for sophomores and juniors?
I wish I had more initiative throughout the writing process. I have a penchant for doing things last-minute, but I was actually really proactive and thorough in terms of researching, collecting and organizing data like the pros and cons of a college or application deadlines, and brainstorming ideas to actually tackle the application itself. I was really excited about the prospect of college, but part of that proactiveness and thoroughness was also motivated by avoiding the writing portions of the application. When it came to things like writing the personal statement or starting to answer the supplementary questions, I was paralyzed by inaction. I thought of myself as a decent academic writer, but I didn’t have a lot of experience writing for or about myself. Months would go by without me writing down a single word or making any progress. I struggled with self-reflection and with translating that self-reflection into a type of writing that would naturally communicate what I’d want to highlight about myself for a college. Pressured by looming deadlines, I eventually had to overcome these mental blocks, but by the time that happened, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to refine my writing and responses.
My advice to sophomores and juniors is to start the writing process as soon as possible, and not to worry about making things sound “right” or original or profound on the first try. The hardest part for me and for a lot of my friends was starting to write something, but after typing up the first couple sentences, the whole thing just became much easier and more immersive. My old English teacher used to say to “get rid of the editor on your shoulder,” and I adopted it as a mantra throughout much of my college essay writing.
What does your spring semester look like? Do you have any changes to your schedule?
My schedule’s the same, and my spring semester looks like more of the same. That might change though, because I’ve been looking for a job to fill up all of my free time!